Nikon 400mm f2.8 G ED VR AF-S lens review!
Simon Wright puts this pro lens through its paces at the GBR Olympic team trials
Olympic standard lens from Nikon? Simon Wright finds out.
The 400mm f2.8 is one of the finest lenses Nikon has ever made. Over the years it’s undergone several modifications and upgrades – including the recent addition of VR (Vibration Reduction) – but the build and image quality have always remained second to none. Even wide open at f2.8 it produces beautiful, sharp images and is superb at tracking, focusing and capturing super fast action shots in low light. It’s the sports lens every Nikon camera wants to marry.
The moment you heave it out of the small trunk it comes in you know you’re in the presence of some very high quality engineering. As you would expect from one of Nikon’s top (and most expensive) lenses there’s very little plastic and everything about this lens oozes quality. It’s built to cope with the rigours of fast and furious outdoor sports photography – the sort of environment where accidents frequently happen – so the metal alloy casing and seals are all built to last.
All that glass and metal alloy casing means this lens is very big and consequently very, very heavy. Do not even think about using this lens without a mono or tripod. I managed to squeeze off a few quick crowd shots by holding it up to the spectator area without the monopod but after about ten seconds my arms were shaking. However once you get used to the monopod its handling becomes easy with my only gripe being the location of the VR on/off switch. Rather than use a button Nikon elected to use a plastic slider which is not easy to use in the heat of the moment when you’ve cranked down the shutter speed to get some nice portrait shots at distance but it’s a minor point. Focus lock is available by pressing one of three buttons towards the front of the lens and there’s the usual range of Nikon telephoto lens options within easy reach.
Using a D700 body I was mostly shooting wide open at 1/1000th second and ISO1600 with Dynamic AF mode in that gorgeous indoor sodium light we all love to hate. Yet its laser sharp, lightening quick AF-S focus tracking coped with just about everything I threw at it and still produced images with fabulous detail, beautiful skin tones, lovely rich colours and no visible distortion. Crank down the shutter speed and activate the VR and you also have a lovely portrait lens with lovely bokeh.
This lens has the best Nikon Nano Crystal coated glass money can buy. I mainly shot between f2.8 and f4.0 and could found no visible vignetting, chromatic aberration or ghosting and resolution was extremely good. Because it’s a fixed super-telephoto I ended up doing a lot of cropping in post-production but even with very tight crops on RAW images the resolution was more than acceptable.
I specialise in aquatic sports so generally I work in public swimming pools with just about the worst light and camera wrecking conditions you can get: low power yellow sodium lights, high humidity and lots and lot of splashing water! My usual weapon of choice is the trusty 80-200mm f2.8, but this lens took my photography to a whole new level. The lens really does live up to its legendary reputation. When I looked around the media tent at the Olympic trials event most of the pro sports shooters I saw had a Nikon 400mm f2.8. Enough said.
Check out more of Simon’s work at http://www.gbswimstars.com/